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Dubai's Zen Tower reopens two years on from devastating fire after Dh20m revamp

A Dubai "community" has been reborn as residents return to a tower block devastated by fire two years ago following the completion of a Dh20 million refurbishment project. An electrical fault in a first floor apartment sparked a blaze which tore through Zen Tower on a baking hot summer's day in May, 2018. Thankfully, no lives were lost as wind speeds of 30 miles per hour whipped-up flames across flammable cladding that encased the 68-flat high rise in Dubai Marina. Residents who founded a new owner’s management association expressed huge relief at finally being able to move back into their homes this week. Similar flammable aluminium composite panel cladding used across the country has been blamed as a major factor in scores of tower block fires in recent years. The most recent at the Abbco Tower in Sharjah on May 5 led to calls for as many as 150 buildings in the emirate to have similar cladding replaced.
The National
Nick Webster

Opal Tower residents launch legal action

Residents of Sydney's troubled Opal Tower complex have launched legal action against the NSW government, claiming it developed the "concrete slum". Opal Tower resident and body corporate chairman Shady Eskander on Monday said the Sydney Olympic Park Authority was the vendor of the 392-unit apartment building. The 29-year-old pharmacist said the owners' corporation had filed a new legal proceeding against the authority and the state government in the NSW Supreme Court. The action followed a report by more than 12 independent experts that allegedly found more than 500 common property defects, with residents hit by a $1.1 million insurance premium.
Channel 7 News

'It's not fair': Sydney cladding crisis threatens to 'crush families' financially

The owners of 130 buildings in inner Sydney have been told to replace flammable cladding or reveal more details about the composition of materials used, leaving individual apartment owners facing bills running into the tens of thousands of dollars. The breadth of the cladding crisis in just one part of the city has led to fresh calls for the NSW government to follow Victoria in funding rectification work, partly given the financial pressure owners are already under due to the coronavirus-induced recession. Waterloo resident Adrian Shi was shocked to discover that he would have to pay $25,000 over the next year to remove combustible cladding from his building in the inner-southern suburb. "If it was just a few thousand dollars it would be acceptable but a $25,000 hit comes at a very bad time. It is not fair for the owner to take full responsibility," he said. "The government should give us some help such as a long-term loan." Greens MP David Shoebridge, who chaired an inquiry into building standards, said the cost of fixing flammable cladding in NSW would be "well north" of $1 billion, which would be borne by homeowners "let down by decades of deregulation".
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

The Office of Building Commissioner's Director, Matt Press is now hiring a program manager and project officer

The Office of the Building Commissioner (OBC) has just finished the initial appointments to commence the Occupation Certificate Audits from 1 September 2020. The talent pool of applicants was very impressive. Experienced Designers, Contractors and Certifiers with 15-years experience will soon be in the field to work with the Building Commissioner. A powerful new tool is being built inside BRD to provide a single view of all projects that are visited by our regulatory inspectors. Here, the view combines the view of our safework and building inspectors. There is a clear correlation between unsafe, poorly managed sites and the quality and compliance of the end build. The game is changing in NSW for those who still think they can build shoddy buildings. It is really time for developers, builders and certifiers to come to terms with a very changed construction landscape. We have commenced a program of case studies that will help the industry to see what we are finding and how they will need to adjust going forward. 
LinkedIn
David Chandler

What to look out for when reviewing strata records

After spending countless hours trawling through listings and open homes, it’s tempting to hand over your hard-earned deposit and sign on the dotted line quickly when you finally find a home that ticks your boxes. But before you do, it’s important you do the legwork to understand exactly what you’re buying. Owners corporation records offer valuable insights into the scheme, so reviewing these documents prior to purchase is vital. Owners corporation records include information on fees, special levies, fund balances, building works, insurance, by-laws and the minutes of strata committee meetings. Email correspondence between owners and documents from external contractors are sometimes available too. Buyers should also consider what information may be missing.  Just because there’s nothing in the strata report, it doesn’t mean the building is fine.  Veronica Morgan from Good Deeds Property Buyers in Sydney advises reviewing records against a list of expected inclusions, and factoring any blank spots into your decision.  
Domain
Jessica Golding

Sydney's 'worst' apartment tower for defects forces industry shake-up

The NSW Building Commissioner has revealed an apartment tower in western Sydney, which he says is probably the worst he's inspected, compelled him to convince the state government to give him the powers to clean up the industry. David Chandler has warned developers he will use his new powers to stop them forcing people who buy off-the-plan to settle on apartments in buildings with significant defects. With structural flaws in Sydney's Opal and Mascot Towers still fresh in buyers' minds, Mr Chandler has set his sights on a 16-storey building in Auburn, which inspectors found to be riddled with fire hazards and building defects months after owners and tenants moved in. The commissioner described the apartment tower at 93 Auburn Road as "an abomination ... because it wasn't finished", and cited it as the "straw that broke the camel's back" in convincing the government to enact tougher powers to protect owners.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

'Throwing good money after bad': Opal Tower owners struggle as costs mount

Owners in Sydney's Opal Tower say they are struggling to pay for ongoing costs arising from cracks in the 36-storey building, after spending about $1 million over the past 18 months. The owners' corporation is considering a special levy to pay for fees for lawyers, engineers and other consultants, as well as $1.28 million in insurance premiums for the new financial year. Owner Andrew Neverly, 60, shut his tour and car rental business several months ago because it was reliant on foreign tourists. Mr Neverly said owners were livid at the prospect of having to fork out for a special levy at a time when they were struggling financially. "As far as we are concerned, it's throwing good money after bad. We can't sell it. Banks won't lend on the building," he said. "It is a hideous situation. Everyone is under loads of financial stress." Mr Neverly, who was a strata manager for a decade, said the commissioner’s key power to withhold occupation certificates was encouraging but he remains sceptical about the protections for owners. "I advise anyone who is looking to buy into the property market not to buy off the plan, and just buy the finished product," he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

HomeBuilder might be the most-complex least-equitable construction jobs program ever devised

HomeBuilder is a good idea gone bad. It is possibly the most complex and least equitable program the government could have devised to deliver construction jobs. It gives $25,000 to people who already own a home or already have enough money to buy one while delivering a minimal stimulus to extra construction. It isn’t a program to create jobs, it is a way of making people who are reasonably well off richer. It does not address homelessness, precarious rental or any of the other pressing problems that are caused by our current housing mix. The big, central problem with the scheme: the opportunity to deliver a substantial program of social housing that would address real problems, including homelessness, has been missed. And the government has done it in a way that will minimise the jobs created and maximise the wealth transfer to Australians who are relatively well off. For a government that has mostly managed to do the right thing ever since COVID-19 hit, this has been a terrible policy clanger. It will encourage everyone who cannot afford to buy a home, or who is homeless, to believe the government has forgotten them.
The Conversation
Geoff Hanmer

Sweeping new powers for NSW building regulator

The NSW building regulator will have sweeping new powers to withhold occupation certificates for apartment and other buildings that are not up to standard, denying developers the ability to settle their projects, under new laws passing Parliament. Building Commissioner David Chandler will require selected developers to inform him six months ahead of their planned completion date and undergo monthly inspections by an architect, engineer and builder, under terms of the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Bill 2020 that had its third reading in the lower house on Wednesday. At the end of those six months, a building not built according to the approved design will not get its occupation certificate, Mr Chandler said. "There’s nothing more focusing in a developer’s mind than getting between them and gold," he told The Australian Financial Review. "That will be the game-changer."
The Australian Financial Review
Michael Bleby

Building watchdog's powers to be bolstered in bid to clean up industry

The NSW building commissioner is set to gain strong powers to stop builders from forcing off-the-plan sales of apartments with defects after Labor signalled it would support a proposed shake-up of the construction industry. After abandoning attempts late last year to pass key legislation, the Berejiklian government will reintroduce an amended bill to the upper house on Tuesday, and introduce another to the lower house which will, if passed, bolster the enforcement powers of building commissioner David Chandler. Labor and the Greens have indicated they will not stop both pieces of...

'Stimulus without safety net': Call for building reform bill to be put on table

The Berejiklian government has been urged to put its proposed reforms to the state's building industry back before the upper house, to avoid a repeat of the Opal and Mascot towers debacles while it fast tracks developments in an attempt to spur the economy. In its final report released on Thursday, a NSW parliamentary inquiry into building standards recommended that the powers of Building Commissioner David Chandler, who was appointed last year, be strengthened and he be given the support of a well-resourced commission. Among the 22 recommendations, the government was also urged to follow Victoria in setting aside at least $600 million to fund the rectification of buildings containing flammable cladding. The inquiry was sparked by severe cracking in the Opal and Mascot towers in Sydney, and the dangers of flammable cladding that were exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017. Better Regulation Minister Kevin Anderson said the government was already taking action to lift standards in the industry and was "implementing a series of reforms". He rejected as "short sighted" the recommendation to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars to remove cladding, saying it failed to identify the hospitals, schools or major projects that would need to be stripped of funding to finance the program. But Greens MP David Shoebridge, who chaired the inquiry, said there was a risk that the mistakes evident in the Opal and Mascot towers were repeated unless the stiffer regulations were passed, and the building commissioner "empowered to inspect shoddy buildings". "What we do not want is an accelerated building crisis in NSW," he said. "If buildings are going to be built as part of the recovery, we need to ensure we have a building commissioner on the beat who can enforce the standards."  
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan

Quality of life in high-density apartments varies. Here are 6 ways to improve it

We’re building a lot of apartments in Australia. High-density precincts are being developed across our major cities. But these buildings and neighbourhoods are often not designed and managed in ways that meet the needs of lower-income residents. Our research identifies five key problem areas. We also propose a broad range of solutions, including six outlined in this article. Some are easy to apply and others will require more effort and funding.
The Conversation
Hazel Easthope Laura Crommelin Laurence Troy Megan Nethercote

Mascot Towers owners seek $15m from developer of neighbouring building

The owners of Sydney's Mascot Towers are claiming more than $15 million in damages from the developer of a neighbouring building they allege is responsible for major cracks appearing in the apartment complex they were forced to evacuate almost a year ago. Fair Trading is also investigating the certification work on Peak Towers, which was developed by Aland Developments and neighbours the 132-unit Mascot Towers in Sydney's inner-south. It comes as the state government has agreed to extend accommodation assistance to Mascot Towers owners for nine months. They have been unable to return to their apartments since they were evacuated in June last year, following structural cracking in the 10-storey complex.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Matt O'Sullivan and Laura Chung

Sydney apartment buildings win the fight against pets on appeal

Barrister Richard Gration, an owner in the Horizon and who represented the strata committee of the Elan in their bid to impose the bylaws, declared the ruling as “a victory for democracy”. He said: “What the tribunal has said is that it’s up to owners to decide for themselves what rules they want to have governing their own local community. They’ve upheld the rights of owners to regulate their own community. “If owners want to live with pets, then they should choose buildings that allow them.”pets from their buildings in a verdict that will have far-reaching repercussions for NSW strata residents. The 260-apartment Horizon in Darlinghurst and the 280-unit Elan in Kings Cross had lost the right in previous cases before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to enforce their bylaws to keep their premises animal free. But, now both have won on appeal to NCAT in a decision announced on Wednesday.
Domain
Sue Williams

Sydney apartment buildings win the fight against pets on appeal

Two of Sydney’s biggest apartment towers have won their battle to ban owners’ pets from their buildings in a verdict that will have far-reaching repercussions for NSW strata residents. The 260-apartment Horizon in Darlinghurst and the 280-unit Elan in Kings Cross had lost the right in previous cases before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to enforce their bylaws to keep their premises animal free. But, now both have won on appeal to NCAT in a decision announced on Wednesday. Barrister Richard Gration, an owner in the Horizon and who represented the strata committee of the Elan in their bid to impose the bylaws, declared the ruling as “a victory for democracy”. He said: “What the tribunal has said is that it’s up to owners to decide for themselves what rules they want to have governing their own local community. They’ve upheld the rights of owners to regulate their own community.  If owners want to live with pets, then they should choose buildings that allow them.”
Domain
Sue Williams

What Members Say

"The whole strata community owes a huge debt of gratitude to you and the OCN executive. Much appreciated."

Robert, Darlinghurst

"I am very pleased with my membership of OCN, the discussions through sharing emails is very valuable in increasing my knowledge of strata living, the laws and EC responsibilities. I think I am better armed to tread the minefield of the managing agent responsibilities and the necessary action of the EC to monitor the contradictory interests of the agent."

Jim, Wollstonecraft

"I so appreciate being part of the OCN email forum. It provides a great opportunity for sharing ideas and learning"

Ingrid, Neutral Bay

"I must say that I have enjoyed and found consolation in the discussions that have been part of the email chain (forum). I did attend one general meeting and found that it was informative and the people "running the show" were knowledgeable and dedicated to the tasks that had taken on. In short, well done. You and the committee have and continue to support the Strata Community in a very professional manner."

Greg, Parramatta

"Nothing is easy in Strata World and we have been in building defects “mode” for some years – hopefully almost at an end but that process has been most demanding and difficult but again – greatly helped by the experience and wise counsel of other members of OCN."

Pat, St Leonards

"Keep up the good work, as many (if not most) strata schemes need your help, advice and representation at all levels of government."

Jann and John, St Ives

"I belong to OCN because of its professionalism.  I have found the meetings I have been to extremely well presented, to the point, and of course very topical and informative. Speakers on the whole certainly know their topic.  My role of Secretary last year was certainly assisted with the coverage regarding TPG & other subjects. Member newsletters are also of benefit as the topics are specific to strata matters."

Graham, East Balmain

I have enjoyed attending the quarterly OCN meetings and the exchange of emails between other Executive Committee Members and think OCN is playing an increasingly important role as a voice for strata dwellers and representing us at Government level. I wish the organisation continuing success in the future."

Pauline, Kings Cross

"The [forum] response to my question was amazing and really useful.  The OCN community is wonderful so thanks."

Jenny, Killara

"I would like to thank you all for the important effort that you are all putting in to look after apartment owners and tenants. It is so valuable and you are heroes. I would not have been able to deal with my duties as a strata chairman without your advice and assistance." 

Angela, Mascot

"The OCN is invaluable – many thanks."

Bill, Surry Hills

"OCN is proving invaluable"

Sue, Neutral Bay

"Thanks to all at OCN for your continuing efforts to keep us up to date with current strata information and advice...it has been very helpful to us"

Kate, Coogee

"When my wife & I first encountered a problematic Executive Committee I heard that OCN was a great help (from a Strata manager whom I knew) so we both joined and have gratefully used the on-line information sources. We continued to happily rely on OCN’s assistance when we progressed to Committee status & later as Chair & Secretary of our Committee. I still use OCN in my current role as Treasurer."

Peter, Chiswick

"Thanks to OCN for being such a rich resource of trustworthy information about strata matters."

Peter, Chiswick

"I wanted to extend my personal thanks for the very informative & interesting event today. The OCN team did an outstanding job in the organisation of this event & I enjoyed it thoroughly. The quality of speakers, the flow of conversation & interaction from the attendees - first class …& of course, the amazing Jimmy T - always a delight."

Sue, Epping

"OCN does a great job in providing a really valuable service to Strata owners."

Lois, Wollongong

"I am sure my appreciation of your good works is echoed by many in the Stratasphere. Keep up the good work."

John, Elizabeth Bay

"The OCN is probably one of the best, most informed and most informative groups I have been involved with."

Alan, Maryville

"Once again, being able to discuss such things through this forum, helps clear the mind, puts things into perspective and helps one to understand their rights and to form a strategy if needs be. As a simple EC member trying to do what is in the best interests of lot owners, I truly value OCN and am grateful."

Pamela, Point Lookout